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COMMUNITY AND BIOGRAPHY
With penetrating detail, crisp style and emphasis on the compression of facts; with vivid images, usually not more than three or four pages, with a concision of explanation or commentary, with a specific point of view, a style of biography has continued from classical times into the twentieth century. This is biography in miniature. It has a certain bias toward the person over the event, toward art as smallness of scale, toward structuring the confusions of daily life into patterns of continuity and process. There is a broad intent to sustain an interpretation or characterisation with facts teased, coloured, given life by a certain presentation and appraisal. Facts about the past are no more history than butter, eggs, salt and pepper are an omelette. They must be whipped up and played with in a certain fashion. Abdul-Baha whips them up and plays with them in His book: Memorials of the Faithful. Readers will find a review of that book below at two of the following links. These reviews and this book have much to say about the individual in community. Go to this link for more: http://bahai-library.com/price_memorials_fauthful
Dr Graham Hassall explores a range of modes, intentions and problems of Baha’i biography, in order to offer some initial observations on the ways in which biographical literatures frame understandings of the individual in the context of community. Dr Hassall distinguishes between documentary, hagiological and critical modes of biography as these have emerged in the diverse literature of the world’s religious traditions, as well as in the secular literature of the modern period. He suggests that much Baha’i biography has continued the traditions of remembrance & exempla, although more critical works have also begun to appear. The quest to write ‘spiritual biographies’ that explore a subject’s inner life and journey remains difficult, due mostly to limitations on sources, since few subjects give adequate exposure to their inner thoughts. Rather than privilege one tradition above any other, Baha’i biographies have to date drawn on the skills of the craft elaborated across generations, religions and cultures, while beginning to draw also on Baha’i scripture for inspiration productive of new insights into how lived lives can be depicted in literature. For Hassall's paper go to: http://bahai-library.com/hassall_modes_intentions_biography
I have also added 2 links about current efforts in the Baha'i community to build community.
THE SEARCH FOR HOME
Somewhere between “once upon a time” and “he lived happily ever after” we search for our home. For home is what the search is all about. But we live in an age of the homeless mind. Humbled by infinitude and bewildered by finitude. We have feelings like feathers that blow in the wind. Blueprints for the good society: who cares? We are disinclined, too, to contemplate the spectrum of history or the scepter of the future. We are caught in the moment, trying to get through today.Some seek home in their garden and, with Thoreau, in the simple life. Others reach out for those blueprints. Truth ensnares hearts in different ways, All fancies, as Rumi once said, have some truth. What is natural, simple and true seems as varied as men. Can one write about a hope and home for man however eternal its springs may be? Many people do these days. It’s fashionable. As doomsdaying is fashionable. Its been going on for at least six millennia. So, it’s not new. Men have been searching for their home and finding havens of hope for some time. We have lots of company. For more go to: http://bahai-library.com/price_homeward_bound
COMMUNITY AND SOLITUDE
Melvin I. Urofsky's biography Louis D. Brandeis: A Life (Pantheon) presents readers with a great mind, perhaps the most brilliant of all Supreme Court justices in the USA. Brandeis was a crusader against oversized institutions, and a luminously eloquent exponent of free speech and privacy: ”the right to be let alone.” In spite of the strong social dimension of the Baha'i Faith, what the secretary of the NSA of the Baha'is of the USA for 30 years, Horace Holley, once called 'this social religion,' sociability is not compulsory. Individuals who prefer to remain by themselves are also eulogized by Abdul-Baha. He does so in His book Memorials of the Faithful written in 1915 before His Tablets of the Divine Plan. Brandeis was quite a complicated and conflicted person, but very interesting.
A religion with pretensions to unify the planet and provide the cultural and community contructs for a new Order, a global society to fill the spiritual vacuum of the 21st century, must provide a spiritual home for all types of people. Not everyone likes to fill their house with people and eat meals with 20 others in the room. “It is true that many creative people fail to make mature personal relationships, and some are extremely isolated. It is also true that, in some instances, trauma, in the shape of early separation or bereavement, has steered the potentially creative person toward developing aspects of his personality which can more likely find fulfillment in comparative isolation. But this does not mean that solitary, creative pursuits are themselves pathological. Avoidance behavior is a response designed to protect the infant from behavioural disorganization. If we transfer this concept to adult life, we can see that an avoidant infant might very well develop into a person whose principal need was to find some kind of meaning and order in life which was not entirely, or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships.” For more on this theme go to: Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self: http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/440448-solitude-a-return-to-the-self
For a perspective on the concept of Community in Diversity: The New Man go to this article by Peter Hulme published in Bahá'í Studies Review, 1:1 Association for Baha'i Studies of English-Speaking Europe, 1991--at this link:http://bahai-library.com/hulme_community_diversity
Privacy Awareness Week 2015 presented a talk with the Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. He had many things to say about why we should think seriously about privacy. He has many privacy tips. Learn more about privacy which is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures & individuals; they share common themes. When something is private to a person, it usually means that something is inherently special or sensitive to them. The domain of privacy partially overlaps security, which can include the concepts of appropriate use, as well as protection of information. Privacy may also take the form of bodily integrity. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privacy
From the Sunday Times comes another book by the top-ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test. The book is a brilliant, hilarious, exploration of the consequences of public shaming. Shame is one of our world's most underappreciated forces. To put the problem another way, it's about something we all fear; it's about the terror of being found out. For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us: people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know they're being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job. Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws - and the very scary part we all play in it. Go to this link for more: http://www.jonronson.com/shame.html
PSYCHOLOGICAL DIMENSIONS OF SUFFERING
At the root of human suffering & persecution, one can often discern the traces of prejudice that have plagued humanity throughout history. Parallel with the waves of oppression and suffering in society, there has been an awakening of human souls not only to the spiritual meanings & mysteries of these adversities but also to their effect on personal development and transformation. Beyond the psychological understanding of persecution is the spiritual realm of this experience. What are the spiritual meanings of suffering & adversity? While confronted with an inevitable persecution, torture, and even death, why do some individuals rise with such resilience and radiance? What role does faith and belief play, and what are some of the spiritual responses as compared to the psychological reactions to life crises and religious persecutions?
This article cites persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran as an example of spiritual resilience. Go to the Journal of Baha'i Studies for an article entitled "Psychological & Spiritual Dimensions of Persecution and Suffering" by Abdu’l-Missagh Ghadirian. Dr. Abdu’l-Missagh Ghadirian is a Professor at McGill University Faculty of Medicine, an Emeritus Physician of McGill University Health Centre, and a Fellow to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. He is also a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Chairman of the Scientific Committee, American Psychiatric Association’s Quebec and Eastern Canada District Branch. For his article go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/6.3-Ghadirian.pdf
All communities larger than those based on face-to-face contact are imagined and can be distinguished by many things of which the style in which they are imagined is but one. Even in the smallest nations a person could never meet every individual within their nation. Yet, every community member could imagine terms of their inherent connectedness to others in the group. Ideas of the nation or a national community encourage members to be good citizens by fostering feelings of connection that lead people to serve and make sacrifices for the good of others who belong to the imagined nation. Ideas about community have become increasingly prominent in the late-twentieth-century and early 21st. The term community resonates throughout: social policy and scholarship, popular culture and everyday social interactions. It holds significance for different populations with competing political agendas; for example, political groups of the right and the left invoke ideas of community yet have very different ideas in mind.
No longer seen as naturally occurring, apolitical spaces to which one retreats to escape the pressures of modern life, communities of all sorts now constitute sites of political engagement and contestation. The new politics of community reveals how the idea of community constitutes an elastic political construct that holds a variety of contradictory meanings and around which diverse social practices occur. Reframing the idea of community as a political construct might provide new avenues for investigating social inequalities. The notion of community as a political construct is useful for rethinking both intersecting systems of power and activities that are routinely characterized as ‘‘political.’’ The construct of community operates within contemporary power relations of class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, ability, nation, and race. There is a vast potential for the intellectual and political significance of these developments.
Despite the term’s widespread use within sociology, after the 1970s, sociological theory largely neglected the construct of community. Yet there are signs that theoretical discussions of the concept are being revitalized in sociological theory. It is sociologists who offer thorough and compelling analyses of the concept in their empirical work. Community is resurging as a force in its own right and not merely as a residue from the past as a way-station to gesellschaft. Four possible reasons why this is so: (1) a disenchantment with modernity, (2) the search for roots in response to change, (3) new immigration and suburban retrenchment, and (4) a longing for community catalyzed by increasing homelessness. The resurgence of interest in community is accomnpanied by a greater specification of the conceptual practices of community that articulate around power relations. For more on this topic go to:http://www.asanet.org/images/journals/docs/pdf/asr/Feb10ASRFeature.pdf
COMMUNITY AND URBANIZATION
Urbanization is a population shift from rural to urban areas, "the gradual increase in the proportion of people living in urban areas", and the ways in which each society adapts to the change. It is predominantly the process by which towns and cities are formed and become larger as more people begin living and working in central areas.The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008. It is predicted that by 2050 about 64% of the developing world and 86% of the developed world will be urbanized. That is equivalent to approximately 3 billion urbanites by 2050, much of which will occur in Africa and Asia. Notably, the United Nations has also recently projected that nearly all global population growth from 2016 to 2030 will be absorbed by cities, about 1.1 billion new urbanites over the next 14 years.
Urbanization is relevant to a range of disciplines, including geography, sociology,economics, urban planning, and public health. The phenomenon has been closely linked to modernization, industrialization, and the sociological process ofrationalization. Urbanization can be seen as a specific condition at a set time (e.g. the proportion of total population or area in cities or towns) or as an increase in that condition over time. So urbanization can be quantified either in terms of, say, the level of urban development relative to the overall population, or as therate at which the urban proportion of the population is increasing. Urbanization creates enormous social, economic and environmental changes, which provide an opportunity for sustainability with the “potential to use resources more efficiently, to create more sustainable land use and to protect the biodiversity of natural ecosystems.”
Urbanization is not merely a modern phenomenon, but a rapid and historic transformation of human social roots on a global scale, whereby predominantlyrural culture is being rapidly replaced by predominantly urban culture. The first major change in settlement patterns was the accumulation of hunter-gatherers into villages many thousand years ago. Village culture is characterized by common bloodlines, intimate relationships, and communal behavior whereas urban culture is characterized by distant bloodlines, unfamiliar relations, and competitive behavior. This unprecedented movement of people is forecast to continue and intensify during the next few decades, mushrooming cities to sizes unthinkable only a century ago.
Today, in Asia the urban agglomerations of Osaka, Karachi, Jakarta, Mumbai, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul, and Beijing are each already home to over 20 million people, while Delhi and Tokyo are forecast to approach or exceed 40 million people each within the coming decade. Outside Asia, Mexico City, São Paulo, New York, Lagos, Los Angeles, and Cairo are, or soon will be, home to over 20 million people. More:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbanization
OBLIGATIONS AND LOYALTY
Obligation is displayed toward rules or requirements of formalized roles stemming from membership in a group or society; loyalty is shown to persons and is founded upon communal commitment to them. Loyalties entail obligations, but the converse does not necessarily hold. While one may have obligations toward everyone, it is neither conceptually nor psychologically possible to be loyal to all persons. Thus, loyalty has a particularity in a way that obligation does not. Loyalty is more likely to exist in communal cooperation, whereas obligation is typically prominent in social, that is, contractual, cooperation. The claim that loyalty is a virtue is criticized, since loyalty can be displayed on behalf of malevolent individuals or pernicious requirements associated with them.
There is obviously a distinction between: (i) a community to which one does not belong, (ii) a community which is based upon what is socially assigned, ascribed, expected, or demanded, upon given attachments---together with required loyalties---that already significantly configure one’s social identity and upon relationships in which one “finds” oneself situated, and (iii) a community of choice. The loyalties of residents in the latter two categories can be both more enriching or more frustrating. Community attachments, obligations and loyalties serve as the foundation for personal identity and bestow meaning upon one’s life.
A voluntary community of choice, such as that constituted by friendship, deep-seated partnership, or conviction is able to possess greater meaning and value for a person than a community in which one has perforce found oneself, such as a family of birth, a neighborhood, a social group or a nation into which one has been originarily embedded. Each person works out, in their lives, what types of community have greater meaning. Within the orbit of possibilities, I submit that affectionate, respectful, solidaristic and tolerant loyalty in an interdependent community of choice, a communality incorporating, among other things, emphasis upon shared intellectual and emotional enrichment and the value of mutually respected creative endeavor, better serves human happiness & fulfillment than does that even in a found community, even a benign one. Moreover, a community of choice is, I contend, more capable of engendering realistic hopefulness, patience and endurance, valuable qualities for any individual who exists in this problematic world of ours.
I have been associated with, and/or a member of a community of choice, the international Baha'i community, for more than 60 years. I have also been a member of a family for more than 60 years. Loyalties, obligations and attachments have been part and parcel of my life in of both these communities, in a host of different ways. One was a wider loyalty, a loyalty to those who also accepted what was prescribed in this Faith community. Emotional support structures and behavioral reinforcements were inevitable aspects of my experience of community. For an extended discussion of these concepts go to an article by John Riser entitled "Obligation to Society, Loyalty to Community" in Minerva: An Internet Journal of Philosophy(Vol. 17, 2013, pp. 31-48) at: http://www.minerva.mic.ul.ie//Vol17/Obligation.pdf
I grew-up in comfortable suburban Burlington, a small town of about 5000 in the 1940s and 1950s. It was just a few miles from the city of Hamilton, the lunch-pail city as it was called, the home of the blue-coller worker. Hamilton had a population of about 150,000 when I was born in 1944; it now has more than half a million. I lived in that city for 3 of the years from 1944 to 1966. From 1943 to 1966 I lived in the little town of Burlington and, for a short period of three years, in Dundas another little town even closer to Hamilton. When I left this part, the centre, of the Golden Horseshoe, as a great section of southern Ontario was called, in September 1966, I moved as far south as one can move and still be in Canada. I drove down to Windsor in my old 1954-Studebaker and enrolled at what is now the University of Windsor. I became a primary school teacher in 1967, and moved to Baffin Island.
Since their original conception as a utopian retreat for middle-class families the North American suburbs, where I was conceived and had my being until I was 23, have come to be seen as increasingly ominous. They are now an important annex of that terrifying place known as "out there." This is not as true of Canada as it has become of the USA. Nor is it true of Australia where I have lived since I was 27. But suburbia has become, at the negative end of the social spectrum, society's boiler room, the home of rapists, shoe-bombers, pedophiles, family annihilators, snuff movie-makers, internet porn-fiends, dysfunctional families, and other fashionable demons. Belief in such a place is itself supported by the assumption that it is the evil people "out there" who are responsible for the horrors that occur on a daily basis in American society. This otherworld is also located "underground," as in "underground movies," and can now can be accessed equally readily through cyberspace, where virtual stalkers and scoundrels hitch-hike up and down the information superhighway, presumably offering footage of animal torture and pre-pubescent children involved in sexually explicit acts.
Between June 14, 1962, and January 4, 1964 when I was in my late teens, I left my little home town of Burlington and moved to another little town, Dundas, even closer to Hamilton which had some 200,000 by the mid-1960s. During this same period, thirteen single women in Boston fell victim to a tall, dark stranger who conned his way into their apartments and left them murdered—sexually molested and strangled with articles of their own clothing. Two years later, during the night of July 14, 1966, a night prowler broke into a nurses' boarding house on the south side of Chicago and raped and murdered eight student nurses. I was selling ice-cream for 80 hours a week at the time, and was planning to leave this southern Ontario suburban life for the Canadian Arctic.
Before I left for the far-north, though, I lived for nine months in the city of Windsor which, in 2014, had come to have a metropolitan population of some 320,000. While there the first of the race riots took place in Harlem, and 3 years later in Detroit just across the river from Windsor. While there, too, an anonymous night-stalking gunman known only as the Zodiac Killer embarked on a series of random murders in far-off San Francisco & other cities in the Bay Area. Especially iconic for what it seemed to suggest about the dangers of city life was the Kitty Genovese Case in 1964, in which a New York City woman was raped and murdered despite waking 38 people with her screams, not one of whom either came to her aid or called the police for help. In 1964 I was studying history and philosophy at McMaster, the university in my hometown and, for six months in 1964, lived in Hamilton west. I spent little time reading the local papers and watching TV, immersed as I was in several courses in history and philosophy. I have no memory of Kitty Genovese.
One of the most important cases in the reconfiguration of the suburbs in the American mindset from quiet-comfort, social consensus & conformity in the 1950s to: "gone to seed" and "apocalyp-topia" is that of John Wayne Gacy. Gacy was a serial killer who was arrested in 1978 and convicted of systematically murdering 33 young men and boys from the early to late 1970s. Reports of the case made a great deal of the fact that Gacy lived and worked in the middle-class Chicago suburb of Norwood Park Township—where 27 bodies were found in the crawl space underneath his home. Far from being a "hooded stranger" who prowled the city blocks at midnight, Gacy—as was well-publicized by media coverage of the case—was liked by his neighbors and known to be a charity fund-raiser, practicing democrat, and basic all-round "pillar of the community." He sometimes even worked as a children's clown in local hospitals, another detail that was widely trumpeted in the publicity circus surrounding the case. By 1978 I was living in an old gold-mining town in Victoria Australia; the serial killer had also arrived in that far-off continent. Such a horrific event was not as frequent in the middle decades of the 20th century with a population of only 8 million in all of Australia in 1950.
By the 1980s I was living in little towns in northern Australia, far from the troubled suburbs of America, and the emerging troubled cities of Australia. Back in the mid-1980s in the USA the most fashionable of all the suburban and city demons was the serial killer. He had arrived in Australia and was becoming a more frequent visitor to the city and its suburbs, but he had not become quite as fashionable, as frequent. His profile, at least according to the media, was significantly different from the dime-a-dozen slayers and stranglers that stalked the city streets. The "model" serial killer was a white male in his mid-to-late thirties, often attractive, and of average or above average intelligence. Unlike garden-variety slashers and stalkers, he was smart, clean-shaven, articulate, and intelligent, with a steady job, a nice house in the suburbs, and an attractive, baffled family who "never suspected a thing." For what I'm sure will be a somewhat disturbing essay for some readers on the transformation of the comfortable and quiet suburbia of the 1950s to apocalyp-topia by the 21st century, go to: http://www.uiowa.edu/~ijcs/suburbia/subfe1.htm
THE DECLINE IN COMMUNITY
This essay "Unhappy Days for America" by Nicholas Lemann in The New york Review of Books(21/5/'15) is a review of a book by Robert D. Putnam Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis(Simon and Schuster, 400 pages). Lemann begins: "Robert Putnam made the leap from the academic prominence he had already achieved to something much broader in 1995 with an article in the Journal of Democracy called “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital.” Whenever an article in a small publication causes the kind of sensation that “Bowling Alone” did—it generated a great deal of enthusiasm in government and in the foundation world—it says something about the intellectual climate of the moment when it was published. Putnam’s main point was that community life outside government and business—the proliferation of voluntary organizations that observers since Tocqueville have noted as a special feature of American culture—had severely eroded. He presented this apparent decline in “social capital” as alarming, & his argument had a powerful effect on people who had grown up in a world of Parent-Teacher Associations, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, and bowling leagues, and who now lived in circumstances where such institutions didn’t seem to exist.
Bill Clinton was a few years into the project of restoring the Democratic Party to national power, after a period in which the Republicans had won five of six presidential elections. He had done this by moving the party to the ideological center, but he had just suffered a terrible defeat in the 1994 elections at the hands of Newt Gingrich & his allies. There was a sense of fragility around the liberal recovery. Putnam’s emphasis on social capital and civil society offered a way of expressing the Democrats’ customary concern for improving the lives of ordinary people without venturing into the perilous territory of calling for new government programs, like the failed Clinton health care initiative, which conservatives would find it easy to caricature. Gingrich’s favorite characterization of what he was against was “the liberal welfare state”—but calling for the restoration of bowling leagues and other such associations seemed immune to being affixed with that deadly label. For liberal foundations, barred by the tax code from overtly participating in politics, the idea that stopping the deterioration of social capital might be the main focus of the liberal project offered a legal way of funding a grand, benign transformation of American society. For more go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/may/21/our-kids-unhappy-days-america/
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink ....In the New York Review of Books, 5/3/'15, Michael Walzer writes in his "Is the Right Choice a Good Bargain?" a review of (i) Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter by Cass R. Sunstein and Reid Hastie(Harvard
Business Review Press, 250 pages), and (ii) Valuing Life: Humanizing the Regulatory State by Cass R. Sunstein(University of Chicago Press, 250 pages).
Walzer writes: Wiser is divided into two parts: the first deals with how group decisions go badly and the second with how to make them go well—or more accurately, how to get them “right.” Sunstein and Hastie write in a simple, direct prose, with a lot of repetition, like teachers who don’t quite trust the intelligence of their students. Indeed, the argument of the book is very much like that of its well-known predecessor, Nudge (2008), written by Sunstein with a different coauthor, Richard Thaler: your intelligence and mine can definitely not be trusted. We are the reason group decisions go badly, and the part of the book devoted to explaining this frequent failure is gripping, if also humbling. For more of his review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/mar/05/cass-sunstein-right-choice-good-bargain/
The turn towards a distinctively narrative idea of community has emerged as a central conceptual premise in both communitarian and postmodern scholarship. Ian Ward, in his: "Shakespeare and the Politics of Community." Early Modern Literary Studies 4.3 (January, 1999), investigates this idea of narrative community. He suggests its import for contemporary legal and political theory. In the first part of the article, he discusses the idea of a narrative community, concentrating particularly on the work of Martha Nussbaum and Iris Murdoch. At the heart of their theses, he states, is the suggestion that literature provides a necessary "supplement" to legal thinking. It is a supplement which reveals the essentially illusory nature of liberal legalism and which maintains an alternative and subversive discourse of community.
In the second part of the article he discusses the extent to which early modern political thought wrestled with evolving ideas of private association and their challenge to the idealised models of civic community. This discussion trys to provide a necessary context for the introduction of a literary "supplement," and the following two parts discuss Shakespeare's description of the politics of association, concentrating in particular on that presented in Love's Labours Lost. In the final part of the article, Ward discusses the extent to which use of the Shakespearian "supplement" necessarily undermines any uncritical acceptance of the narrative idea of community. The fact that both public and private associations are created, but immediately destabilized by textuality does not deny the idea of a narrative community. Indeed, it makes it undeniable. But it does destabilize any attempt to assert any rigid model of communitarian politics. It is precisely this insight which characterises postmodern ideas of communities, from Rousseau's cynical commentary on idealised friendship, through Rorty's ironic postmodern liberalism, to Derrida's recent invocation of a "politics of friendship." I leave it to readers with an interest in this topic to go to this link and the rest of this article:http://extra.shu.ac.uk/emls/04-3/wardshak.html
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law. Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities. Go to these two links to access (i) more on the history of cities and (ii) this journal to which I refer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City and http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/intellect/jucs/2014/00000001/00000001?utm_source=Journal+of+Urban+Cultural+Studies&utm_campaign=JUCS+1.1&utm_medium=email
THE LOSS OF COMMUNITY
One of the most common critiques of modern society often focuses on how society has embraced individualism and secularism. That critique also places a great deal of emphasis on rationalism and the loss of collectivity. Somehow feelings of disconnection abound in the 21st century, as expressed by the growing need for psychological help, the emphasis on group identity markers by ethnic and religious segments of society, and many other forms of resistance seemingly designed to take back control over identity in any way possible. For some, this has led to an interest in forms of spiritually that place less emphasis on the reverence of deities and more on the connection with the self.
Practices such as yoga and meditation, use of the Tao Te Ching and mindfulness are all found in a category, a type, of spirituality, as they tend to place the focus on unraveling the authentic “self” from the structures of daily life. Besides incorporating “other” spiritual themes into Western society, certain elements are actively sought out in their native environment because of a perceived authenticity that cannot be duplicated elsewhere (Cremers, 2010). Shamanism has become an especially romanticized ideal, a particular way, of enjoying a close, almost idyllic relationship with the natural environment which stands in sharp contrast to perceptions of the disconnected world of modern technological society (Foutiou 2010).
This stereotype has led to a view of shamanism as an inherently anti-modern pursuit that places its emphasis on the collective instead of the individual, and the spiritual instead of the rational. Especially when mediated by hallucinogens such as the ayahuasca brew, these rituals are met with skepticism, because they are perceived to facilitate drug-seeking behavior instead of creating “true” spiritual experiences (Winkelman, 2005). For more on this topic go the following article entitled: "The ‘Vines of the Self’: An assessment of entheogenic shamanic tourism in light of modern identity" in the online electronic journal Social Cosmos to: http://The ‘Vines of the Self’: An assessment of entheogenic shamanic tourism in light of modern identity
THE CONCEPT OF COMMUNITY
As Martha Nussbaum has suggested in her book Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature(OUP) a "community is formed by author and readers," and in such a way a community can better appreciate the reality that it is bound together by a shared "ethical interest," even if it admits the contingency of that ethics. A politics that is founded on the idea of community is premised on the binding force of narrative imagination. In Poetic Justice, Nussbaum affirmed the immediately political import of narrative imagination. Public discourse is, necessarily, a literary engagement, and the "literary imagination" is the "essential ingredient" of the "ethical stance" which founds a politics of community. It may not be the only ingredient in such a politics, but it is one which cannot, and should not, be diminished. It is the failure of the liberal tradition to take account of emotions and literature in its conceptions of justice which has led to an essentially dislocated politics and impoverished sense of democracy. Accordingly, the "democratizing mission" lies, as it always has, with the poets and the ideal of the poet-judge. The "mission of imagination, inclusion, sympathy and voice," which has always characterised the poet, must now be championed by judges. This does not just mean judges in courtrooms, but also all of us, citizens engaged constantly in moral and political judgments.
For me, the comunity in which I participate in the sense Nussbaum is describing, is the intenrational Baha'i community. The following is a crucial aspect of this community. "Baha’is shun politics like the plague and are obedient to the government in power in the place where we reside. We cannot start judging how a particular government came into power, and therefore whether we should obey it or not. This would immediately plunge us into the realm of politics, its endless hairsplitting, and the I am right, you are wrong dichotomy. We must obey in all cases except where a spiritual principle is involved such as denying our Faith. For this spiritual principle we must be willing to die.
What we Bahá'ís must face is the fact that society is rapidly disintegrating. It is disintegrating so rapidly that moral issues which were clear half a century ago are now hopelessly confused. What is more is that these moral issues are thoroughly mixed up with battling political interests. That is why the Bahá'ís must turn all their forces into the channel of building up the Bahá'í Cause and its administration. They can never change nor help the world in any other way at present. It they become involved in the issues the Governments of the world are struggling over, they will be lost. But if they build up a Bahá'í pattern they can offer it as a remedy when all else has failed."
"At the outset it should be made indubitably clear that the Bahá'í Cause being essentially a religious movement of a spiritual character stands above every political party or group, and thus cannot and should not act in contravention to the principles, laws, and doctrines of any government. Obedience to the regulations and orders of the state is, indeed, the sacred obligation of every true and loyal Bahá'í. “ For most of the above see Shoghi Effendi at this link:http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/DG/dg-153.html
PEACE AMONG THE NATIONS: WORLD PEACE
The following paragraphs are part of a paper that I have edited slightly. It is a paper that was made available by the Bahá'í International Community's Office of Public Information with the approval of the international governing body of the Baha'i community, the Universal House of Justice. The paper was written in response to a question about the notion of the 'Lesser Peace' that is found in the Baha'i writings. The catastrophic events of the twentieth century and the twenty-first are also discussed briefly below. The Baha'i Office of Public Information has suggested that the following can be used as a basis for a response to questions about this 'Lesser Peace' and the catastrophic events going as far back as the 'war-to-end-all-wars.'
If one examines the Baha'i texts in relation to the term 'Lesser Peace', & also in relation to the word 'century', 'twentieth century', & the 'catastrophic event(s)', it is obvious that those passages which refer to the twentieth century in connection with the 'Lesser Peace' are not authentic. There never was a prophecy about the year 2000; that degree of specificity was a misunderstanding on the part of the Baha'i comunity itself. There is much more that I could add here, but the above and the words below will suffice. We should learn the lessons from that false view, that misunderstanding, and move on. We should try not to make the same sort of mistake regarding 2012, 2021, 2063 or any other special date that may be proposed. The only dated fulfilled prophecy we have is 1963, the date of the election of the Universal House of Justice. That momentous act assured the continuity of the Bahai community following the death of the Guardian. It was achieved on the centenary of Baha’u’llah’s declaration, not because God intervened on schedule but because the Guardian gave us realistic plans to achieve it, and the Bahais worked hard to make it happen.
World peace is essential for any sense of global community and security. It is also a hallmark of the emerging global civilization which will be realized, such is my belief, as a tangible expression of the principle of the oneness of humankind. This assurance is given in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Such a peace, the Baha'i teachings emphasize, will be the result from the culmination of two distinct but simultaneous and mutually reinforcing processes: one process will lead to the spiritual unity of the human race, referred to as the "Most Great Peace"; the other process refers to the political unity of nations and known as the "Lesser Peace". The former is a distant goal, requiring a monumental change in human conduct that only religious faith and the related behaviour can ensure; the other is more immediate and can already be detected, if faintly to the skeptical and cynical, on the political horizon. The one is directly related to the efforts of the Baha’i community in promoting the pivotal principle of their Faith; the other is dependent on the actions of world political leaders. It is not dependent on any Bahá'í plan or action.
The political unity of nations implies the achievement of a relationship among them that will enable them to resolve questions of international import through consultation rather than war. It is this that will lead to the establishment of a world government. The attainment of peace in the political realm is discernible through the workings of a process that can be seen as having been definitely established in the twentieth century amid the terror and turmoil that have characterized so much of this period. It is noteworthy that the majority of the nations have come into being during this century and that they have opted for peaceful relations with one another by joining in the membership of the United Nations and through participation in regional organizations that facilitate their working together. Moreover, the process of political unification is gaining acceleration through the awakening of a consciousness of peace among the world’s peoples that validates the work of the United Nations, & through advances in science and technology, which have already contracted and transformed the world into a single complex organism.
The horrific experiences of two world wars which gave birth at first to the League of Nations and then to the United Nations; the frequency with which world leaders, particularly in the decade of the nineties, have met and agreed on the resolution of global issues; the call for a global order that issued from the participation of these leaders in the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations; the very multiplication of organizations of civil society that focus their attention on a variety of international concerns through the operation of an ever-expanding network of activities; the widespread debates on the need for global governance and numerous organized efforts towards world peace; the emergence of international tribunals; the rapid developments in communications technology that have made the planet borderless: these are among the voluminous evidences of a momentum toward peaceful international relations that has clearly become irreversible.
The Bahá'í writings indicate that peace among the nations will be established in this century; these writings also indicate that a universal fermentation and horrendous social upheavals would mark the transition from a warlike world to a peaceful one. The Baha'i teachings do not point to the occurrence of any specific cataclysmic event at the end of the 20th century or, indeed, in the 21st. Inevitably, the movement leading to world unity must encounter opposing tendencies rooted in stubborn habits of chauvinism and partisanship that refuse to yield to the expectations of a new age. The torturous suffering imposed by such conditions as poverty, war, violence, fanaticism, disease, and degradation of the environment, to which masses of people are subjected, is a consequence of this opposition. Hence, before the peace of nations matures into a comprehensive reality, it must pass through difficult stages, not unlike those experienced by individual nations until their internal consolidation was achieved. But that the process toward peace is far advanced can hardly be denied.
COSMOPOLITANISM AND COMMUNITY
How can we come to care about the fate of others far away? This question haunts the modern revival of interest in cosmopolitanism, a keyword that has emerged at the turn of the millennium to articulate the nuances of lived experience in an increasingly global era. Definitions of cosmopolitanism differ. The use of the word here signals a mode of belonging that implies a heightened sense of responsibility for an expanded view of community. Understood in this way, cosmopolitanism has frequently been criticized for its inability to inspire the genuine affect, genuine feeling. For it is this feeling that enables such ethical responsiveness. Skeptics often argue that the ties of cosmopolitanism are inevitably arid and artificial, especially when compared to the emotionally enduring bonds of nationality or ethnicity. However, these portrayals of emotionless cosmopolitanism overlook the long and rich history of sentimental discourse that has sought to create robust feelings of community across social borders. This structure of feeling, the author of this paper suggests, has been dismissed because it frequently figures the cosmopolitan subject as female.
As a discourse primarily associated with women, and accordingly afforded low levels of cultural capital, sentimentality poses a challenge to the implicitly male subject of many modern accounts of cosmopolitanism. In this paper which follows the legacy of cosmopolitan sentiment is considered as a legacy most often associated with the novel. It is this legacy which informs twenty-first-century rhetoric on the Internet. An American Web site called Kiva, through which individuals make microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries, harnesses the power of this feminized discourse to promote emotional connection at a distance. For this paper in the online journal Public Culture(V.21, N.2, 2009) go to: http://publicculture.org/articles/view/21/2/microloans-and-micronarratives-sentiment-for-a-sm
MODELS IN HISTORY
The return to classical Greece in order to reinvest a communitarian politics with an appropriate form of education, one that is critical and imaginative, is immediately resonant with communitarians such as Alisdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and Martha Nassbaum. In his Sources of the Self, Taylor sought to reestablish a sense of community on the premise that "we grasp our lives in a narrative." A politics of community must be founded on a reinvigorated politics of the self. We "learn our languages of moral and spiritual discernment," Taylor tells us, "by being brought into an ongoing conversation by those who bring us up." In such terms, we stand in "conversation" with our "immediate historic community." (1) Our identities are constructs of past, present and future. (1) I do not share the enthusiasms of these communitarians for classical Greece, at least they invest far too much in that model. As a student of both the history and philosophy of those magic decades from, say, 510 BC to 404 BC, I see the reestablishment of a sense of community based on that Golden Age as unrealistic and too problematic to take seriously.--Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.
The essay at this link:http://extra.shu.ac.uk/emls/04-3/wardshak.html contains much from history and philosophy in relation to the classical determination of public friendship as a means of stabilizing society. Several contemporary sociologists and philosophers are also drawn on in the discussion. Derrida seeks recourse to Nietzsche for a conception of friendship which denies the assumption that relations are ever precisely rational or reciprocal. Friendships, being established in the private sphere are often irrational, the products of pleasure, and cannot then become a panacea for an apparent crisis in modern public philosophy. There must be no concession to the communitarian temptation to sequester a conception that is solely derived from private relations, and to then try to use it to refound the public sphere; the kind of "fraternal" politics described by ironic romantics such as Rousseau. The subject is complex and only readers with the interest are advised to go to the above link.
A GLOBAL IDENTITY
In the following essay it is argued that there are certain processes at work in the world, which could and should contribute to the fostering of a global identity. Even though a global identity is regarded by many social scientists as unviable, if not impossible, because an “Us” is always in need of a “Them”, there is an increasing need to transcend these conceptions. The central theory presented here is that, as humanity’s sense of interconnectedness grows, and the need for a global collaboration has become more and more necessary in order to deal effectively with climate change and environmental degradation, a process could be set in motion whereby, as we move towards a collaborative “Us” (the unified social body), a hypothetical or historical “Them” is constructed (the divided social body). The purpose of this speculative paper is primarily to challenge prevailing, perhaps pessimistic, convictions that the construction of a global identity is impossible, even though in light of the nature of current pressing issues it is highly necessary. Go to this link for more:http://socialcosmos.library.uu.nl/index.php/sc/article/viewFile/34/30
COMMUNITY AND STILLNESS
The notion of ‘life as a work of art’ is not exclusive to artistic practice. Various theorists and philosophers including: Nietzsche, Foucault, Spinoza, Deleuze and Guattari, have advocated the necessity of viewing life as a kind of project or mode of invention, suggesting ways in which one’s “style of life” or way of existing might be produced or constructed differently. They urge us to consider how we might actively and consciously attend to the full possibilities of life in order to become more human, by increasing our “affective capacity,” that is, our capacity to affect and be affected in affirming or “augmentative terms”. In one sense, Spinoza’s Ethics offers a pragmatic model or guide to living through which to attempt to increase one’s potential capacity for being, by maximising the possibility of augmentative experiences or joyful encounters. Here, Spinoza formulates a plan or model through which one might attempt to move from the “inadequate” realm of signs and effects – the first order of knowledge in which the body is simply subject to external forces and random encounters of which it remains ignorant – towards a second order of knowledge. Here, the individual body is able to construct concepts of causes or “common notions” with other “bodies in agreement.”
The “common notions” of the second order are produced at the point where the individual is able to rise above the condition of simply experiencing effects and signs in order to form agreements or joyful encounters with other bodies. These harmonious synchronicities with other bodies harness life-affirming affects whilst repelling those that threaten to absorb or deplete power. It is only through the construction of “concepts”, that is, an understanding of causality, that it is possible to move from the realm of inadequate ideas towards the production of “adequate ideas from which true actions ensue”. According to Spinoza’s Ethics, the challenge is to attempt to move from a state in which existence is passively experienced – or suffered blindly – as a series of effects upon the body, towards understanding – and working harmoniously with – the causes themselves. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/119
Any examination of the notion of community, as this webpage at my website attempts to do, needs to have some concern for and interest in the future. There are now several journals in relation to futures studies. For the most-part they are globally-oriented, and trans-disciplinary. They are concerned with: (i) high-quality, futures-oriented research and (ii) thinking based on the evolving knowledge base of what has come to be called Futures Studies. Articles accepted for publication are expected to show an in-depth understanding of the field's dimensions, content, research perspectives and methods.
Futures literature is a growing field. The core journals in this futures field include: Futures and Foresight, Technology Forecasting and Social Change, as well as Futures Research and futures material contained in books, monographs, and journals. For a window into many articles, and indeed, many complete articles concerned with the future, go to: http://www.jfs.tku.edu.tw/sarticles.html
This article is by a futurist who in 2013 made the trek from Hawai’i to Bucharest to attend the bi-annual World Futures Studies Federation Conference. This was an important year as the federation celebrated it’s 40th anniversary. Some of the world’s most accomplished and intelligent futurists attended. The World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF) was born in Paris in 1973, but its conception actually happened in Bucharest in 1972. So it was more than fitting that the 40th anniversary of the organization be held in this very same city. A sense of the WFSF’s history and accomplishments was palpable throughout the two and a half day event. The opening sessions included welcome speeches from Remus Pricopie, Minister of Education for Romania and Adrian Curaj, the General Director of the Executive Agency for Higher Education. For the full article go to:http://www.jfs.tku.edu.tw/18-1/R01.pdf
Enthusiasm is intense enjoyment, interest, or approval. The word originally referred to inspiration or possession by a divine afflatus or by the presence of a god, and Johnson's Dictionary, the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, defines enthusiasm as "a vain belief of private revelation; a vain confidence of divine favour or communication." The word "enthusiast" was originally used to refer to a person possessed by a god. It comes from a Greek word meaning possessed by god's essence, applied by the Greeks to manifestations of divine possession, by Apollo (as in the case of thePythia), or by Dionysus (as in the case of the Bacchantes and Maenads), the term enthusiasm was also used in a transferred or figurative sense. Socrates taught that the inspiration of poets is a form of enthusiasm. The term was confined to a belief in religious inspiration, or to intense religious fervour or emotion. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enthusiasm
The photograph on the cover of the ‘Enthuse’ issue of M/C Journal of Media and Culture was taken at the 2007 Summernats car festival. It captures the complete attention of a crowd of spectators watching the burnout competition. A burnout competition involves cars driven at full throttle for three minutes to spin the wheels, while not allowing the car to move. The tyres become molten and the rubber breaks down, turning into smoke. Drivers are judged according to the spectacular nature of their performance. It is one of the ritualised practices of modified-car culture whereby enthusiasts, mostly males, perform a spectacular motility (mobility potential) afforded by heavily modified vehicles. The burnout competition is a spectacularised test of mechanical endurance. Modified-car culture has many dimensions that cut across familiar scholarly lines of inquiry from subaltern studies to gender studies and from youth subcultures to socio-technical studies. As a complex assemblage of sometimes contradictory tensions and tendencies there is one element of modified-car culture that is shared by all those involved in it: enthusiasm.
Enthusiasts of different scenes within the culture organise around their respective enthusiasms. Mechanical workshops and other technical businesses that service these scenes have an appreciation of the enthusiasm for the purposes of sustaining and commodifying it. Governmental authorities have an appreciation of enthusiasm because they attempt to mediate and regulate it. The cultural industry, which includes the magazine industry, memorialises and valorises certain elements of the scene to help incite, distribute and repeat the enthusiasm. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/161
INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME 6 OF
Volume 6 of my diaries was begun on 26 July 2009. Writing a personal diary can be fraught with danger, laying one’s soul out for view as it were, but nevertheless, such documents provide one of the best, if not the best, way of understanding the day to day activities, the thoughts and aspirations of the diarist, whether those entries seem important, mundane or of no interest at all to a later reader. This is true whether the diarist writes on a day-to-day basis or, as I do, just periodically. I would like to think that readers will find here in my diary or journal a fascinating first-hand account of the life of a Bahá'í in the first decade of the 21st century, a life at a veritable fulcrum-time, a hub of crucial Bahá'í experience, the opening years of a new Baha’i paradigm, a new culture of learning and growth. This diary is of an ordinary Baha’i, an international pioneer from the Canadian Baha’i community, and his life at a critical stage in the wider experience of society at a climacteric of history. It is a life in the form of a detailed, readable and absorbing account of the emergence of a person whom some regard as a fine writer and poet, whom others denigrate and criticise and whom most people know little to nothing of at all. I have placed this account in the section entitled: Psychology: Community because one can learn a great deal about community from the account of only one of its members.
I now have two 2-ring binders of diary-entries for this Volume 6. These entries provide some resources from other diarists, people who kept journals of various kinds. The first of these two-ring binders was begun in 2005 but it contains items gathered over many years before that date, some of the items as far back as the 1980s when I first began to keep a diary. In July 2010 it became necessary to open a second 2-ring binder and this introduction is written on the opening of that second file/volume.
15 July 2010
DIARIES: SOME COMMENTS
Some posts on the internet in relation to my diary and the subject of diaries:
The Baha’i community and the secular society I describe both cover millions of individuals with the most diverse sensibilities. Their experience is a protean one and what individuals choose to marginalize or centre from their direct and vicarious experience, from their beliefs and values, attitudes and meanings is incredibly diverse. My intent in much of my writing about community is to present what I like to think is a balance between the memory of my society and the Baha’i community on the one hand and to draw on my own idiosyncratic view of history, mine and others on the other. This whole exercise interests me only insofar as it serves the living and breathing community of individuals. There is a way of doing history and a valuing of it through which life atrophies and degenerates, as Nietzsche said in the opening paragraph of his On the Use and Abuse of History For Life. It is my hope that there is little atrophication and degeneration as I go about bringing one life to life.
FIFTY YEARS PLAYING THE GUITAR: 1961-2011 and SIXTY YEARS OF LISTENING TO GUITAR
Being in the generation that came into their teens in the mid-1950s, I was there when rock-and-roll was in its first decade. When the first large wave of youth joined the Cause in the West in the 1960s with the guitar as one of its centrepieces, one of its icons, I was there struggling to get those singalongs off the ground. The guitar was the quintessential instrument and it was just about impossible not to get into the guitar if one had any sense of rhythm, listened to the top 40 and wanted to utilize singing as a teaching medium.
The first guitar I bought was some time in 1961. I tried to learn classical guitar but gave up in despair after two or three months. I think it was about October of 1967 when I had been pioneering on Baffin Island that I bought another guitar. I gave it to an Inuit kid in Iqaluit on Baffin Island in May of 1968 after purchasing yet another guitar. The kid’s name was Henry and he was in grade 3. Seven years later, and living in Tasmania, I put my first booklet of songs together for singalongs. By 1974 I had enjoyed singalongs for over twenty years, my first experiences being around the piano at home with my parents and friends beginning in 1951(circa). We had a piano until 1957 when it was sold for financial reasons. The singalongs that evolved in the 1970s were a combination of popular folk and rock, solid gold from popular music of the past and what was then a small repertoire of songs with explicit, overtly Baha’i themes and content.
That first booklet of songs was revised again when I lived in Victoria(1976-78) and several times thereafter until singalongs began to fade, at least for me, in the 1990s as I faded into late middle age. This booklet of resources reflected these several booklets of material I put together over those years. By 2005 I had enjoyed more than 50 years, on and off, of singalongs. They had given me and others much pleasure. But for various reasons they insensibly began to fade from my experience, at least my guitar-playing part. Baha’i choirs had begun to emerge; Baha’i artists were beginning to put out CDs by the late 1990s, but getting people to sing informally, even with the song sheets from my booklets, seemed to be harder than ever. Slowly but surely over the ten years, 1995 to 2005, singalongs with the guitar became rarer and rarer events. I felt as if I had done my share when in 2003 I put up my guitar on the hook of retirement and in 2005 I retired from the local choir I had been a member of for three or four years.
I put a booklet of songs together in 2005, probably I thought at the time, a final booklet, for those rare occasions that did arise for a singalong in the years ahead. A resource that was used a great deal, then, in the twenty years 1968 to 1988 became a rarity in the following fifteen, 1988-2005. By 2001 I had a weekly program in Launceston for half an hour utilizing some 50 Baha’i CDs; a Baha’i radio station came on-line; professional and amateur choirs were popping up all over the world. The Baha’i music scene was developing a rich and diverse base. But singalongs seemed relatively scarce for a population that seemed more intent on watching people sing than singing themselves. My own disinclination to lead singalongs had led to a new phase of community music for me. As I say, I took part in a choir in George Town once a month(2001-2005).
Then in 2008 I began to lead singalongs once a month at an aged care facility in Launceston using mostly “songs from the sixties.” Another phase of singalongs was opening in this my middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80). I have tried here in this brief statement to capture some of my musical experience in groups over more than half a century, 1951-2011, and my experience playing the guitar for singalongs from 1968-2011. Youth at this site may find this historical perspective of value. What will be their story in half a century? Time will tell, eh?
SOME OF THE COMMUNITY PSYCHOLOGY AND HISTORY: IN ISRAEL
The following review of Hadara Lazar's book Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel comes from The New York Review of Books, 7 Feburary 2013. The British rule over Palestine lasted roughly thirty years, from 1917 until 1948. The Baha'i Faith had had its world centre in Palestine for 50 years by 1917. In a country that has three to four thousand years of recorded history, the 30 years of the British Mandate was a tiny fraction. If we conceive of those four thousand years on a scale of one day, the period of British rule takes barely a few minutes. This is how Avishai Margalit puts it in his article "Palestine: How Bad, & Good, Was British Rule?" The international Baha'i community has had its world centre in Haifa Israel for a century and a half. This book is not about the Baha'i experience in Israel, but the book provides an excellent overview for the texture and tone, the political climate and recent history of Israel.
"In comparison, Turkish Ottoman rule over Palestine, lasted four hundred years," says Margalit, "and this takes an hour and forty minutes." Yet the influence of the thirty years of the British Mandate was deep and wide-ranging. Under British rule, Palestine became a political unit, not a marginal province of something else. The British made Jerusalem the capital city of Palestine; they introduced the idea of professional civil service, and they encouraged a lively civil society; they built roads and airfields, and provided sound legal institutions and reliable police. For more go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/07/palestine-how-bad-and-good-was-british-rule/?page=1
COMMUNITY IN THE ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS
The call of Abraham and of his subsequent pilgrimage has become part of the primordial journey of the Jewish people. "It is part, too, of that theophany, that appearance of God to man, that has been sedimented in narrative" writes George McLean and has become part of that biblical "primordium around which a people" has been shaped.(1) This primordium, Peachey says, needs interpretation and application in the changing circumstances of time and place, our time and place. And that is what I am doing here in this brief comment as I relate this theme to "community building."
Having embraced a new theophany and become a part of a new Faith community which claims descent from this original Abrahamic experience, I am in possession of a new tradition, arguably now in its third century, which possesses a richness of detail that was scarcely perceptible in that first primordium, but which has been enacted again in the life of Baha'u'llah, the Founder of this new community. I have been engaged in building this new community for half a century. This new narrative and its history of some two centuries now(2), not unlike Abraham's, is of immense value to the international pioneer in the Baha'i community as he or she goes about their engagement in community building.
Most of us are involved in community-building in some form or another around: family, some volunteer group we have joined, a tribe, a town or city, a nation state. In the last century or so a new community has emerged: the global community and the Bahá'í Faith has been involved in building this global community, a global community within the larger global community.
Contemporary religious practitioners usually have little direct engagement--historical, archeological, sociological--with that seminal Abrahamic-primordium of community about 2000 BC. Tradition and its institutional configurations overshadow this ancient narrative and, to a lesser extent, are animated by it. But, for me, in the Baha'i community, Abraham's story has found eschatological and apocalyptic significance in what you might call a contemporary rerun. In this globalizing, individualizing, pluralising world, a prophet, a manifestation of God, has been forced, not called, out of his country, taking his kindred with him on the journey. I find in my life and in pioneering over four epochs, that the narrative of Baha'u'llah's exile, his journey-narrative, is one I can shape as I become more familiar with it and as it shapes me. In a world of some 20 million refugees and millions more living in countries in which they were not born, Baha'u'llah's exile could be seen as a metaphor for our times.
"Learning the existing Abrahamic story, its language and its logic," says Peachey, "enables individuals to experience on their own in the terms of that story or to use it as a foundation for new and expanded experience."(3) Learning the story is like learning a language. Learning a new tradition, any tradition and becoming a part of that tradition is also like learning a language. Learning this language is essential if one is to function within that tradition's parameters. The story of Abraham is the beginning, the first chapter, of the Israelite narrative; the story of Baha'u'llah is the end, the last chapter, of this same narrative extended into our time, our age. Such is my view.
This idea of learning the language of community has similarities to anyone’s efforts to build community: a football club, a family, the people in a work-place even a loose and informal group of friends. “You pays your money and you makes your choice,” as they say—and you spend your days building community in some shape or form—and then you die and you leave behind you whatever community with whom you have been engaged.
From the father, the first patriarch, the birth, of the Hebrew people about 4000 years ago, if not before, right up to our time, our modern age, in the person of Baha'u'llah, this pattern of leaving one's country and going to another land is, in some ways, the basic myth, model, metaphor, for the international pioneer. The Baha'i pioneer goes and makes his home "to develop the society God calls"(4) Baha'u'llah's followers to build. "I will make of you a great nation,"(5) God says to His people in The Bible. The international pioneer is also in the same position, only he is at the beginning of a global, a planetary, system, a world Order, that he is helping to establish. This is the core of that pioneer's service to humanity. God will train both the pioneer and the Baha'is, it would appear, following the metaphor right back to Abraham, in a series of sacred-historical events different from, but similar in other ways to, the great literary-metaphorical history that is The Bible. Abraham's leap of faith is ours, too, as we walk into history.
Baha'u'llah's exile over forty years(1852-1892) took place only once, as did Abraham's journey, but each inaugurated the history of a divine-human relationship which will go on unfolding for centuries, millennia to come—such is the belief of those who call themselves Baha’is. Just as Abraham had little comprehension of the nature of his call or of his destiny at the beginning, so, too, are we in a similar position, although we do have some glimmering, indeed, much more than a glimmering, of the future given to us in the Baha'i writings. At the very start of the building of this World Order of Baha'u'llah, of community building, it is difficult to fathom the process, the reality, the meaning. The narrative takes unexpected turns; uncertainty enters in from time to time. Faith is at our core, in the centre of our narrative, as it was for Abraham.
But history, for the Jewish people, and for the Baha'is, is seen as an extended course of instruction filled with lessons and tests by which God seeks to educate us for our redemptive work. In this narrative is found the meaning and purpose of our lives. To help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Just as Abraham went from his country, kindred and father's house so does the international pioneer, launched on a mission to other people, to all people, wherever he goes. The journey has gone on in our own time in the life of Baha'u'llah. That great journey of the Abrahamic peoples is the paradigmatic, the metaphorical, vehicle, that the pioneer takes on board as he becomes a part of a wondrous tradition that weaves its way through the holy Scriptures of four of the world's religions. For the pioneer's story is the story he will find there in that holy writ. Therein will he find his life's meaning and purpose.
(1) Paul Peachey, "The Call of Abraham," in Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change, Series 1, Vol.7., George McLean, editor.
(2) If one takes the history of the Baha'i Faith back to 1806 when Shaykh Ahmad, the chief precursor of the Babi Faith, took up residence in Iran for the last two decades of his life.
(5) Numbers 23:9.
Ron Price 8 April 2010
EMPLOYMENT-JOBS AND COMMUNITY
The process of frequent moves and frequent jobs which was my pattern for fifty years, 1949 to 1999, is not everyone's style, modus operandi or modus vivendi--to use two still commonly used Latin phrases. Many millions of people live and die in the same town, city or state and their life's adventure takes place within that physical region, the confines of a relatively small place, a domain, a bailiwick as politicians often call their electorate. Such people, and other types as well, often have very few jobs in their lifetime. Physical movement is not essential to psychological and spiritual growth, nor is a long list of jobs, although a great degree of inner change, extensive inner shifting, is inevitable from a person’s teens through to their late adulthood even if they sat all their lives on the head of a pin and never moved from the parental nest. That reference to the head of a pin was one of the theologico-philosophical metaphors associated with angels and often used in medieval times. This metaphor has interesting applications to the job-hunting process but I will leave that for another time.
This process of extensive change in people’s lives is even more true in the recent decades of our modern age at this climacteric of history in which change is about the only thing one can take as a constant--or so we are often led to believe because it is so often said in the electronic media. For many millions of people during the half century 1957 to 2007, my years of being jobbed and applying for jobs, the world was their oyster, not so much in the manner of a tourist, although there was plenty of that, but rather in terms of working lives which came to be seen increasingly in a global context.
This was true for me during those years when I was looking for amusement, education and experience, some stimulating vocation and avocation, some employment security and comfort, my adventurous years in a new form of travelling-pioneering, globe-trotting, pathfinding of sorts, as part of history’s long story, my applying-for-job days, some five decades from the 1950s to the first decade of the new millennium. My resume altered many times, of course, during those fifty years. It is now, for the most part and as I indicated above, not used in these years of my retirement and especially since 2007, except as an information and bio-data vehicle for interested readers, 99.9% of whom are on the internet at its plethora of sites.
This document, as I say above, a document that used to be called a curriculum vitae or a CV, until the 1970s, at least in the region where I lived and dwelled and had my being, is a useful backdrop for those examining my writing, especially my poetry. Some poets and writers, artists and creative people in many fields, though, regard their CV, resume, bio-data, lifeline, life-story, life-narrative, personal background as irrelevant, simply not necessary for people to know, in order for them to appreciate their artistic work. These people take the philosophical, indeed, somewhat religious position, that they are not what they do or, to put it a little differently and a little more succinctly, "they are not their jobs."
I post below a link to a recent article in The New York Times. The article is about job satisfaction. In my several decades of being jobbed I would put my job satisfaction in the 'A-category' that is at least 75%. The experience of job satisfaction is an importnat index of the sense of community in which one dwells. This is especially true in the jobs I have had over the last half century. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/opinion/sunday/do-happier-people-work-harder.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
HISTORY OF THE WELFARE STATE
I only ever read two of the people discussed in this book - R.H. Tawney and Richard Titmuss. Tawney I first read when I was at university studying history, philosophy and sociology. I also came across Tawney on one of my first jobs as a teacher or lecturer, journalist or adult educator. I came away with the feeling I've retained ever since, namely, I was priviledged to read someone with a degree of erudition. To many Tawney was a sort of secular saint. To many he emanated kindliness and goodness. Richard Henry "R. H." Tawney(1880-1962) was an English economic historian, social critic, ethical socialist, Christian socialist, and an important proponent of adult education.
The Oxford Companion to British History, published in 1997, explained that Tawney made a “significant impact” in all four of these “interrelated roles”. A. L. Rowse goes further by insisting that, “Tawney exercised the widest influence of any historian of his time, politically, socially and, above all, educationally”. Oxford Companions is a book series published by Oxford University Press. The series provides general knowledge within specific areas. The first book published in the series was The Oxford Companion to English Literature (1932), compiled by the retired diplomat Sir Paul Harvey. The list of the several dozen books in this series, many of which I have come across over the years, is found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Companions
I ran into the writings of Richard Titmuss(1907 – 1973) when I was teaching several courses in the field of Human Services. Titmuss was a pioneering British social researcher and teacher. He founded the academic discipline of Social Administration, now largely known in universities as Social Policy. He held the founding chair in the subject at the London School of Economics. His books and articles of the 1950s helped to define the characteristics of Britain's post WWII welfare state and of a universal welfare society, in ways that parallel the contributions of Gunnar Myrdal in Sweden. He is honoured in the Richard Titmuss Chair in Social Policy at the LSE, which is currently held by Julian Le Grand.
The present book is, of course, only one way to look at the history of the welfare state. It brings it down to particular people, to biographies. You could look at the history of the welfare state in many other ways; for example, the scholar could look only at broad themes. Many books have. The essays in this collection may seem to imply "progress," on an almost Vlctonan model from the first glimmerings of something that might be called a welfare state to later, better years. But these essays also make it clear that this history didn't always seem like progress at the time.
Today many critics, of both left and right, will say you could write of the disasters of the welfare state, just as easily as of its successes. Its central achievements, such as the National Health Service, should not be underrated. But no social institution, including the welfare state, is ever complete: society is not a marble monument. There was no one single impulse behind the making of the welfare state. Yet during the late 1940s it sometimes seemed as if there had been one.
It was then that it was suggested, as part of a Whig-like interpretation, that history had culminated in the social legislation of the postwar Labour government. The term, welfare state, came into general use at this time, and a good deal of 19th century as well as 20th century history was re-written in the light of the achievements of social democracy. There was even a sense of finality - as there had been in the story of representative government, although Richard Titmuss & others were warning voices at the time, suggesting that there could be no finality in social processes. Instead, Richard Titmuss always put "welfare state" between inverted commas.
More convincing than the search for the distant origins of the welfare state was the distinction sometimes drawn between, on the one hand, welfare and the complex network of social services which were introduced to enhance it or even to guarantee it; and on the other hand, the state and the wider powers conferred upon it as the social services were extended. Such a distinction had been drawn by Hubert Bland in one of the most interesting contributions to Fabian Essays in 1889: "it is not so much to the thing the state does as to the end for which it does it that we must look before we decide whether it is a socialist state or not." Already before 1914 there were critics of collectivism, like the jurist, A.V. Dicey, who complained of the increase in the powers and the costs of "the state" as new social services were introduced. There were always counter-critics who switched the argument back to poverty, to social contingencies and social rights, and to what T.H. Marshall was to call during the late 1940s "citizenship and social class."
Although the 19th century saw a "growth in government," which is of increasing interest to social & economic as well as constitutional historians, there were, in fact, few people in Britain before 1914 who wished consciously to increase the powers of the state. The few that there were could be accused of turning to Gerqlan idealism, or practice, for their ideology. Voluntarism was an element in the British tradition, and the merits of self-help, including mutual self-help, were sung as loudly - or more loudly - in Scotland and in Wales as in England. Even the early Fabians directed attention to the role of the municipality and, in the case of the Webbs, to the role of the trade union. There were municipal socialists who were chary of state socialism, and trade unionists who preferred to attempt to secure social gains through their own struggles rather than through "reliance on the state." For more of an introduction to this book, and the complexities of the history of the welfare state, go to: http://www.historyofsocialwork.org/PDFs/1984,%20Barker,%20Founders%20of%20the%20welfare%20state%20OCR%20(c%20notice).pdf